Speaking from Coventry – our 2021 City of Culture in waiting – he announced the winners of the bids to the government’s Cultural Development Fund and also talked a little about other pockets of investment and his wider vision for the arts and culture.
This article gives you the headlines.
Did he talk about young people and cultural learning?
Yes! This speech is full of encouraging language about young people:
‘… engagement with the arts is linked with higher happiness and self-esteem in young people, helping them to foster feelings of personal pride and achievement.’
‘Creativity is increasingly recognised as a vital skill by employers and educators alike. In many ways, it is the most future-proof skill we can have. The challenge is how to help our young people to see the range of careers that culture has to offer. And wherever they come from and whatever they look like, to help them see themselves pursuing those careers. But we don’t have to make a living through culture for culture to change the way we live. How we engage with culture of all kinds can change the way we see the world and the way we see ourselves, and that is particularly true when we are young.'
‘Skills of self-confidence, teamwork and dedication are eminently transferable, and they are learned through the opportunities arts and culture can offer. And I want more young people to be able to take advantage of these opportunities’.
(The above quote was usefully re-tweeted and endorsed by the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds.)
‘I know my colleagues at the Department for Education share our ambition in these areas. And I will be working with them to bring the benefits of drama, dance, art, music and more to a greater number of young people.’
Did he announce anything new or concrete for cultural learning?
No, nothing new this time round – something that was interrogated expertly by Alex Clark when she interviewed him on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.
In this conversation Wright made the argument that education in schools should not be reduced to just the curriculum. He said that we should value a range of holistic school experiences and that creativity should be inherent in the teaching of all subjects. When pressed, he described the argument about the place of the arts in the EBacc as ‘sterile.’
From our perspective he did not recognise that many of the ‘broader’ arts experiences in schools that he talks about are delivered by specialist teachers whose posts cannot be justified in budget terms if their subject is no longer taught on the curriculum. He did finish up by saying that there was much more to do in this area – something on which we can wholeheartedly agree!
Wright also mentioned the Understanding Society Survey: the UK’s largest longitudinal household panel study of its kind. This is a really useful dataset for those interested in cultural learning as it includes data from young people on happiness, self-esteem, careers and education.
Cultural Development Fund: successful bids
Wright announced the five successful recipients of this money. The £20 million fund forms part of the Creative Industries Sector Deal and is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. The money has been ringfenced for local partnership bids which will super-charge an area’s creative economy.
The DCMS website gives full details of the activity that will be funded in Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth, the Thames Estuary, and Worcester. Many congratulations to all involved in some really inspiring projects.
Arts Council England is administering the fund and you can read more about it in this useful blog from ACE Executive board member Laura Dyer.
Other funding pots mentioned in the speech and interview
- New funding of £27 million for the Creative People and Places Fund via Arts Council England. A new round of this scheme, running from 2019 – 2023 is now open, with 109 new eligible areas: those with the ‘least engaged’ communities according to the Active Lives survey. Find out if you are eligible by consulting the list.
- A Future High Street Fund worth £55 million earmarked for heritage assets. This is for ‘helping to restore historic high street properties through Historic England, and equipping communities with their own resources to put historic buildings back into economic use - for example as residential buildings, new work spaces or cultural venues, supported by the Architectural Heritage Fund’.
- £5 million for Youth Performance Partnerships (announced in September 2018 – bids went in in November and announcements are due in the spring).
- £120 million for the 2022 Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Image credit: Leeds Museums and Galleries, Thwaite Mills. Credit: Lisa Stonehouse.